Altering Our Perception

Phytopathology is the study of diseases in plants, caused by pathogens and environmental damage, including fungi spores, oomycota, bacteria, viruses, viroids, phytoplasmas, protozoa and nematodes. This field of science involves the identification of disease aetiology and epidemiology, and its economic impact.

This is the world in which Carsten Höller (b. 1961) lived, up until the early 1990s, trained to see and diagnose parasitic micro- ecologies, and manage their growth. Since then, he has risen to international acclaim in the fields of installation and relational aesthetics, exploring the nature of human experience and how we perceive reality through the depths of our surroundings.

Day, a new show at MAAT, Lisbon, brings together a major survey of pieces from 1987 – when Höller was working as a scientist – up until the present day. Almost 20 works are arranged in a situational “parcours”: a journey between organic curvatures, narrowed thresholds, inbuilt lighting systems and multi-sensory installations. Light Wall, close to the museum’s entrance, greets visitors with an array of light bulbs that flicker at a frequency of 7.8Hz, the same rhythm as the Earth’s vibrations.

In collaboration with Acute Art, the exhibition also expands into the digital dimension, with a virtual reality app that further alters and magnifies the viewer’s perception as they move through the gallery. Höller once stated, in an interview with Tate in 2006: “I see one function of the museum as being a space for experimentation – for testing ideas and concepts that could eventually be realised on a larger scale outside the museum.”

DAY: CARSTEN HÖLLER is at MAAT, Lisbon, until 28 February.

Image Credits:
1. Installation view of Light Wall (Outdoor Version) by Carsten Höller, maat – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, 2021/2022. Courtesy of EDP. Foundation/maat. Photo: Attilio Maranzano
2. Decimal Clock (White and Pink) 2018 Neon glass tubes, aluminium, controllers, software 446 × 100 cm (diameter × depth) Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua.
3. Double Neon Elevator 2016 Steel, fluorescent tubes, glass, controllers. Two parts, 440 × 240 × 360 cm each Courtesy of the artist.